Woof and double woof as the Twins sweep twin bill on Saturday

Bless You Boys

Well this was absolutely not what the doctor ordered. The Tigers couldn’t hold off a Twins comeback in Game 1, and then failed to hold serve in the 12th inning to lose it. In Game 2, the bats were just atrocious once again while Matt Manning’s rare mistakes were hit hard. And so the Twins swept the doubleheader and will look to take the series on Sunday.

Game 1: Twins 11, Tigers 5 (F/12)

The first of two matchups with the Minnesota Twins on Saturday featured former Twin, Kenta Maeda, taking on RHP Joe Ryan. Of the two, Ryan was decidedly the more dominant, but with some timely defense and enough stuff to keep the Twins offense in the park, Maeda was able to match him.

The Tigers did strike first in this one. Ryan struck out Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson in the first, but in between them, Mark Canha reached base on a Jose Miranda throwing error. Then in a 3-2 count, Kerry Carpenter got a splitter that hung up and he pounded it into the seats 415 feet over the right center field wall. 2-0 Tigers.

And it was well they got that dinger, because for the next four innings Ryan was pretty untouchable. He struck out the side in the second inning, and other than a walk to Canha, struck out Meadows, Greene, and Torkelson in the third.

Maeda was giving up some hard contact, and it bit him in the third inning when Willi Castro and then Austin Martin doubled to make it 2-1 Tigers.

Colt Keith made a few nice plays in this one. Here he turns an unassisted double play on a liner off the bat of Manuel Margot.

The Twins struck again in the top of the fifth with one out. Austin Martin lined a single to left, and a Edouard Julien’s soft comebacker to Maeda was thrown away into center field instead of converting the double play. Maeda had time and probably rushed the throw a bit. He wasn’t happy with himself, and he was less happy when Carlos Santana grounded one to Torkelson, who fired to second, but the return throw had to be taken by Colt Keith and he didn’t have time to get set on first base and couldn’t handle the throw from Zach McKinstry, who handled shortstop in game one. Martin scored, and the game was tied. Maeda struck out Alex Kirilloff to end the inning.

Maeda’s command improved as the outing progressed and he closed out his day with a strikeout of Jose Miranda to end the top of the sixth. Maeda finished with 6.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 5 K. Pretty good start overall, and while he got some help defensively, it was his own throwing error that hurt him a bit.

The Tigers finally got to Ryan again in the bottom of the sixth. Spencer Torkelson ripped a double to left field to lead off the inning. A Carpenter ground out moved Tork to third, and the Twins pulled their infield in to try and keep the game tied and make a play at the plate with one out. Colt Keith said naw, and smacked a hard ground ball through the right side of the infield to make it 3-2 Tigers. Despite striking out 12 times against Joe Ryan, the Tigers were on top and looking for more.

They wouldn’t get any more, however. Vierling popped out, but McKinstry followed with a lined single to right field, moving Keith to third. Carson Kelly hit a ball hard, but right to Manuel Margot in left to end the inning.

Tyler Holton handled the seventh without issue, collecting a strikeout. Lefty Steven Okert took over from Ryan, and A.J. Hinch pinch-hit Gio Urshela for Meadows, moving Vierling from third base to center and inserting Urshela at third base. Okert had no trouble though. Some help from C.B. Bucknor helped him strike out Canha to end the inning.

Holton got the first two outs of the eighth, but Twins manager Rocco Baldelli replaced Kirilloff with the right-handed hitting Ryan Jeffers, so Hinch turned to Shelby Miller. This did not work out. Miller missed with his first two pitches and then grooved a fastball down the middle that Jeffers deposited over the left field wall. Tie ballgame.

The Tigers couldn’t get anything going in the bottom of the eighth against Griffin Jax, as Colt Keith made the final out on a line out on a leaping play by Kyle Farmer at second base. So we were on to the ninth tied up. Jax has been handling some of the closing duties for the Twins with Jhoan Duran on the IL, so it was good to get their best relievers into the game, particularly if the Tigers could pull out the victory and set themselves up for Game 2.

Hinch stuck with Miller in the ninth, and it worked out, also keeping the bullpen in good order for Game 2. Mililer froze Matt Wallner for strike three to start the inning, then hit Jose Miranda. Willi Castro was frozen as well by a perfectly located fastball for strike three as Miranda broke for second. Carson Kelly made a pretty good throw, but a swim move to the outside of the ball left Miranda safe by a hair. Byron Buxton took over as the pinch runner, but Miller got Christian Vasquez to fly out to a sliding Kerry Carpenter in shallow right field to send it to the bottom of the ninth tied at 3-3.

Brock Stewart came on for the Twins, so that was both their closing options presumably burnt in this game. Baldelli was all in to win it.

Stewart did his job. He punched out Vierling, and while McKinstry drove one hard to right field, Wallner handled it to leave things up to Carson Kelly. The Tigers catcher drew a walk with a good AB, but Urshela lined out to center to send this to extras.

So, as the chess match continued between the two managers, now A.J. Hinch had to decide which arm to spend to try and win this one. He chose Jason Foley, and you can’t go too wrong doing so. Foley struck out Austin Martin and then got a ground out and fly out to keep the runner on second from scoring. And again, it was time for a walkoff. I mean it this time, Tigers.

Baldelli turned to right-hander Jorge Alcala in the bottom of the 10th. Javier Báez pinch-ran for Urshela as the runner on second and taking over at shortstop while McKinstry moved to third base. Alcala fell behind Riley Greene and so they intentionally walked him. Canha grounded into a double play, and Spencer Torkelson saw nothing but well located stuff on the outer edge and struck out.

Foley allowed a leadoff single in the 11th that scored Santana from second, but he racked up three quick outs from there and the Tigers needed to come back and then end this thing. They managed the first part.

With Torkelson on second to start the inning, Kerry Carpenter reached on catchers interference, and Colt Keith came through with a line drive single to right field to tie the ballgame. Really good swing and great to see him come through.

However, the Tigers needed to end it there, and for reason Carpenter didn’t advance to third on the single despite being off on contact. Considering how aggressive they’ve been that was an odd time to decide not to force the issue. So, with two on and no outs, needing just a single to win, they really put together some poor at-bats. Hinch had Vierling try to sacrifice the runners over with a bunt, a move I generally loathe in the first place, but particularly without good hitters coming up behind him, and he couldn’t get one down, eventually striking out. McKinstry grounded out, and Kelly popped out to end the inning.

Wasting those chances in extras never works out.

I won’t bother detailing the whole top of the 12th, but basically Alex Lange couldn’t find the strike zone the first two batters. He walked Willi Castro and a sac bunt laid down by Vasquez saw Torkelson try and fail to get the lead runner. Very poor decision there trying to throw out Buxton, and while it certainly wasn’t all Torkelson’s fault, that decision may have cost them the game.

Lange certainly deserves his share of this loss, as he walked Austin Martin to force in the go-ahead run. He bounced back with a pair of strikeouts though, and just needed to get one more hitter. After a long tough 3-2 battle with Ryan Jeffers that went 12 pitches, Jeffers finally grounded out to third…except that it went right through McKinstry into left field and three runs scored. Brutal.

McKinstry paid for an awful play by having to pitch, and he gave up a walk and a Matt Wallner three-run shot to end any thoughts of a comeback. Riley Greene singled in a run in the bottom half, but this one was long over.

This has to go on Alex Lange and Zach McKinstry, but after pulling the right strings early, Hinch going to Lange in extras was not the right call. I’ll also give Hinch an eyeroll for the Vierling bunt attempt, but most managers will do that in that situation.

On to Game 2.

Game 2: Twins 4, Tigers 1

The second matchup featured Matt Manning vs. RHP pitching prospect Simeon Woods Richardson. Tigers former farm hands Colt Keith and Wenceel Perez have seen him multiple times at the Triple-A level, and with only two appearances to his name, Richardson came in at a disadvantage to Manning and really doesn’t have an above average pitch.

However, the Twins offense certainly still has an advantage over the Tigers even with Royce Lewis and Carlos Correa on the IL. Meanwhile, the Tigers made Woods Richardson look like Pablo Lopez out there.

Manning walked the first two batters of the game, and eventually a sacrifice fly scored one run before he got out of the inning. Manning hasn’t been able to get into any rhythm considering the schedule and doubleheader call-ups, and hasn’t pitched in nine days, so it wasn’t a surprise that he was a little wild early. He would settle in really well from there other than one mistake late in his outing.

The Tigers got on the board by being patient with the rookie starter. Kerry Carpenter lined a single to open the bottom of the second. Colt Keith drew a walk that was a bit of a gift from the home plate umpire. Urshela flailed at a bunch of breaking balls to strike out, but Wenceel Perez, making his first start in a Tigers uniform, beat out an infield single for his first major league hit and the bases were loaded.

Javy Báez lifted a deep fly ball to center field to score Carpenter and advance Keith to third base. Perez then swiped second for his first steal. Unfortunately, Jake Rogers lifted a liner out to Buxton in center field, and again chances were squandered. They had tied the game 1-1, but it didn’t last long.

With one out in the top of the third, in a 1-2 count, Manning got too much of the plate with a fastball, and Edouard Julien smoked it the opposite way for a solo shot to re-open a one run lead for the Twins. That was just a nice piece of hitting. Manning cleaned up the rest of the inning, but the Tigers bats remained quiet against Woods Richardson.

In the fifth, Carlos Santana bounced a comebacker off Manning and reached on an infield single. Manning painted a fastball down and away to Kyle Farmer for a strike out, and got a lazy fly ball and a soft tapper in front of the plate to strand Santana at first. Through five innings, you’d like to have the home run ball back, but Manning was acquitting himself pretty well and racking up more whiffs than we’ve ever seen from him. The bats just weren’t giving him any support.

The Tigers made some quality contact in the bottom of the fifth, with Báez and Rogers both flying out, but that made it 11 straight hitters retired by a solid but unspectacular pitching prospect called up for this start.

In the sixth, Manning made one mistake and again the Twins made it count. A two-out bloop hit from Austin Martin was followed by a lazy first pitch sweeper down the middle that hung up in Willi Castro’s ideal bat path and got crushed to right field for a two-run shot. 4-1 Twins. Mistakes like that are going to make it hard for Manning to break back into the rotation full-time. Your move, Reese Olson.

The Tigers putrid offensive performance continued against Woods Richardson in the sixth. Riley Greene grounded out, Canha grounded out, and Torkelson popped out on an absolute cement mixer begging to get mashed right up in the middle of the zone. Very, very ugly stuff. 14 straight retired by the rookie starter.

Manning came back out to get the first two hitters in the seventh before giving way to Joey Wentz. Manning finished with 6.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 K, but with two home runs allowed, that ain’t good. We do love to see him punching out a lot more batters though. Hopefully time with the new pitches and mechanics adjustments pays dividends, because he really does look better. Just some rust, and a big mistake pitch to Castro, weighed on his record in this one.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers finally mustered something offensively. Vierling led off with a solid single to center field. Keith and Urshela went down swinging, but Perez drilled a ground ball to Buxton in shallow left center and challenged him by taking second base right in his face. With runners on second and third, they finally had a good scoring opportunity, but there were two outs. The Twins turned from Kody Funderburk to Cole Sands on the mound, and a Javy Báez grounder up the middle found Julien in perfect position to collect it and throw him out at first.

The Twins didn’t score in the eighth, but the Tigers did their best to help them. Wentz allowed a single to Jeffers on a pop fly into shallow center field that Vierling apparently thought Perez was going to handle running over from right field. It dropped in for a “single” and the Twins were in business again with the leadoff hitter on. Jeffers then broke for second and Wentz was slow to react and then didn’t step off the mound, balking him to second. A walk to Miranda followed.

Wentz did recover, however. He got Buxton to fly out, and then struck out Martin and Castro to strand the runners. Along the way, Jake Rogers took a hard shot to the mask from a foul tip, and didn’t come back out in the ninth as Carson Kelly took over.

Sands cruised through the eighth as well with the Tigers just flailing at the plate. McKinstry and Canha both struck out, while Greene tapped one back to the mound for an easy out. Wentz allowed a Santana single in the ninth, but got a pair of ground outs to send it to the bottom of the ninth with the Tigers still down 4-1.

Torkelson flew out. Vierling grounded out, and Colt Keith struck out looking to end it.

The Tigers record falls to 8-6. They’ll send Jack Flaherty to the mound against Bailey Ober on Sunday trying to earn the series split.

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